SIGNS OF THE TIMES
FOR SEVERAL minutes at a stretch I have been seeing photographs of the dead teenaged vegetable vendor, Faisal Hussain. He was killed last week in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district. Mind you, he wasn’t killed by gangsters but by cops in the Uttar Pradesh police force. Why? Because he was seen selling vegetables near his home in these coronavirus-ridden times. He could have been reprimanded but he was beaten to death by men in khaki. Call it State terrorism or custodial killing or any other term of your choice.
In fact, coronavirus has paved way for the State policing wing to hold sway. Pointers and relays to a police state in the making, if not an already made police state! In fact, few days back a young cleric, Yasir Akhtar, was arrested and jailed, in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh because perhaps he’d gone somewhat beyond the set format to relay his solidarity with the Palestinians and had given a call to hoist the Palestinian flag atop vehicles and homes! Again he could have been reprimanded by the authorities, instead legal cases were slapped on him. Thankfully he was not slapped to death by the cops!
There is scare amongst the masses of not just the Corona virus but also of the state machinery. Tragedies stand compounded as there seem no redressals for the victims. Nobody seems to know what’s been happening and what lies ahead. It was pathetic to see on the small screen the plight of the leading Hindustani classical artist, Varanasi-based Padma Vibhushan Pandit Chhannulal Mishra, outpouring his grief at the death of his daughter Sangeeta who died in a hospital of Varanasi. Panditji repeatedly asked for a fair probe into his daughter’s death, demanding to be provided the CCTV footage of the hospital in Varanasi where his daughter died of Covid last month. He was more than hinting at the sheer medical negligence responsible for his daughter’s death.
Whilst on death and destruction spreading out, seeing dead forms, one can only sit in deep sorrow and question the State: Is this the way to treat our dead! They were our fellow citizens but see how their forms can be seen floating in the muddy waters if not semi-embedded in the sandy banks. Perhaps, sheer poverty forced hundreds of Indian families to float the dead remains of those departed, or else bury them in sand.
I feel compelled and provoked to seek this basic query: If the bureaucratic and the political Who’s Who can be given frilly farewells, so why not the poor who died gasping! Yes, hundreds of the coronavirus infected could have been saved from the clutches of death, if only there was better governance and that rather too automatically means better run health and medical facilities. As of now we seem ruled, rather misruled, to such an extent that perhaps people are looking at death as an escape, departing to a better and more peaceful world up there, where there will be none of these political rulers of the day and the official machinery under their direct control, to hound and pound and kill!
These last seven years have been particularly painful. Right from the summer of 2014 till date, our souls have been hit. Deaths and more deaths! It started with the lynch killings and then upgraded to death of the institutions and the very system. Today, of course, the eerie build-ups are going uncontrolled.
I have been re-reading A.G. Noorani’s volume – The RSS – A Menace To India (Left Word), which was launched two summers back. To quote from it – “India is battling for its very soul …The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) is the most powerful organization in India today; complete with a private army of its own, unquestionably obeying its leader who functions on fascist lines on the Fuehrer principle…The RSS is at war with India’s past. It belittles three of the greatest builders of the Indian State – Ashoka, the Buddhist; Akbar; the Muslim; and Nehru, a civilized Enlightened Hindu. It would wipe out centuries of achievement for which the world has acclaimed India and replace that with its own narrow, divisive ideology.”
To further quote Noorani from his this book – “The intensification of Hindutva has acted, as intended by its followers, to divert attention from the fact that almost half the population of India is at or below poverty line and is denied even the most basic rights and amenities. Instead of working towards providing these rights and amenities to the tribals and the Dalits, the focus has been shifted to the irrelevant question of the right to convert. The hype surrounding the issue of which Indians are indigenous and which are foreign, basing this identity on the false premise of whether they follow a religion which indigenous to the subcontinent or is West Asian in origin, has led to the most inhuman and unethical behaviour on the part of groups claiming to defend Hinduism and is directed towards those labelled as Muslims and Christians.”
ON RUSKIN BOND’S JUST PASSED BY BIRTHDAY on 19 May… Leaving you with Ruskin Bond’s this verse, from his poetry book titled – ‘I was the wind last night: new and collected poems’ ( Speaking Tiger):
“These simple things
The simplest things in life are best-
A patch of green,
A small bird’s nest,
A drink of water, fresh and cold,
A taste of bread,
A song of old,
These are the things that matter most.
The laughter of a child,
A favourite book,
Flowers growing wild,
A cricket singing in the shady nook,
A ball that bounces high!
A summer shower
A rainbow in the sky,
A touch of a loving hand,
And time to rest-
These simple things in life are best…”
Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story.